Senate wants Henry Rotich, Willy Bett prosecuted over maize scandal

By IBRAHIM ORUKO
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A Cabinet secretary and an ambassador should be prosecuted for being behind the flooding of imported maize leading to price distortions, the Senate said on Wednesday.

It named Treasury’s Henry Rotich and Kenya’s High Commissioner to India Willy Bett, the immediate former Agriculture CS, saying they should be held to account for the Gazette Notices which opened a floodgate for unscrupulous dealers to deliver maize to the National Strategic Reserve.

“The two CSs must take responsibility for the Gazette Notices for the importation. And the CS agriculture should develop regulations and guidelines on importation of maize and other food crops, and table them before the Senate within 45 days, “ the Senate ad hoc committee says in its report tabled in the Senate on Tuesday by Bungoma’s Moses Wetang’ula.

“The crisis that led to the influx of duty-free maize was a ploy by both the public and private sector players to profiteer from distortion of the maize value chain. The Gazette Notices No 3575 dated April 13, 2017, No 6398 dated July 3, 2017 and 7248 dated July 27, 2017, were open ended and done without any valid reasons and justification,” the committee notes in the report.

It further indicates that the government’s inconsistent, incoherent policies and pronouncements on the maize matter led to massive uncontrolled importation leading to huge losses.

The committee observed that records at the Kenya Revenue Authority show that maize imported by various importers was sold to the ministry of agriculture through the National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) at a profit.

Data availed by KRA showed 1,800MT of maize being imported through Malaba One Stop Border Point during the period yet during a visit to the area by the committee, it was discovered that 12,400MT was received and a further 43,100 in Busia.

“This is despite the well-known fact that Uganda is not a major maize producer which raises the possibility that the maize could have been from non EAC/COMESA region. Further, the committee noted that Kenya’s partners in the region had protested the gazette notice on duty-free maize importation,” reads the report.

According to the committee’s findings, there is no evidence that there were standards and quality checks by the Kenya Bureau of Standards at the ports of entry during the duty-free maize importation period.

The senators note that the figures do not include other entry points from Uganda such as Kisumu, Sio-port, Karungu Bay, Muhuru Bay, Suam, Lukhaka and Chepkube.

“So deep and crude is this scandal that at Malaba OSBP the committee observed that several traders had delivered several MT of maize using saloon cars. For instance, KBB 644W, a saloon car is recorded to have carried 10,000 kilograms of maize through Malaba OSBP on October 17, 2017 for delivery in Nairobi,” the report adds.

Also in other instances KRA quoted pickups KCC 433Q and KBX 279W towing trailers carrying 28,000 kilograms each.

The committee recommends that the Ethics and Anti- Corruption Commission and the Directorate of Criminal Investigations should spearhead the process to trace and recover any unlawfully acquired wealth from individuals behind the scandal.

The team said that from the EACC investigation report, Sh4.5 billion was paid to only 146 individuals with 20 of them receiving Sh2.1 billion.

“One of the glaring cases out of this is a family comprising a mother, two daughters and a son who from the NCPB records supplied maize worth Sh745m using fake vetting forms,” the committee noted.

By Kenyan Digest

The Kenyan Digest Team